Resource Helps Nontraditional Students Navigate Financial Aid Process

 The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators offers online tip sheets to help unique student populations apply for financial aid.

To ease the financial aid application process for students with unique circumstances and backgrounds, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) recently published tip sheets.

The online tip sheets, which are open to the public, provide answers to common eligibility questions that are raised during the application process. Questions such as “Do you have a legal guardian?” or “How many people are in your household?” might seem straightforward to most applicants, but are stumbling blocks for those who are homeless, in foster care, or have unique family situations.

“The goal is to try to address some of the situations that are a little bit outside the norm, to help those types of student populations and the people who help them,” said Karen McCarthy, director of policy analysis at NASFAA. “We’re trying to smooth the way, so that the process is more manageable for people who might have those special circumstances.”

The tip sheets are designed in a FAQ-like format and provide information tailored to several student population segments, including foster or homeless youth, single parents, and military members. In constructing this resource, NASFAA incorporated answers to common regulatory questions it receives from members, past research, and recommendations from the U.S. Department of Education. McCarthy said these tip sheets attempt to “pull all of that together” to provide “a wider benefit across all institutions.”

McCarthy said a recent change in the FAFSA application cycle, which means students can begin applying for financial aid on October 1 instead of January 1, was the biggest factor in NASFAA’s decision to release these tips now. “We want to make sure we get that out there well before the FASFA opens on October 1,” she said.

In addition to helping students, these tip sheets are a useful tool for financial aid administrators. “It helps them to serve the students they are helping,” McCarthy said. While the financial aid administrators who NASFAA works with are active in communities and schools, organizing presentations and events for students applying for financial aid, McCarthy said their presentations are “made for the masses of applicants.”

When it comes understanding the nuanced challenges faced by smaller student populations, McCarthy said these tip sheets are NASFAA’s go-to resource for financial aid administrators. “We provide tools to help them assist students, and these [tip sheets] are the primary tools that we provide with regard to these special populations,” she said.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect the new FAFSA application dates.

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Thorne McFarlane

By Thorne McFarlane

Thorne is an assistant editor for Associations Now and a literature buff who loves a great story. Have something interesting to share? Send it his way. MORE

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